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Essentials of Photography Preservation


In a digital age revolved around capturing memories via photography, it is essential that these images are preserved for years to come. Although not always contemplated, storage conditions for photography must be seriously considered in order to ensure that your memories last a lifetime. Check out the below tips to keep your printed memories in great condition for years to come. 




As lower temperatures slow the speed of chemical decay, it is easy to understand why the lower the temperature, the longer the images will last. If you are storing in a warm(er) environment, it is important to ensure that storage temperatures do not exceed 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Relative humidity should remain between 15% and 65% to reduce insect activity and prevent mold growth while also working to combat brittleness.




When storing your photography, avoid stuffy attacks, damp basements, and garages. It is important to raise boxes off the ground to prevent potential water damage, especially if you are storing your items on or below ground level. To further prevent water damage, do not store boxes near potential sources of floods, such as pipes, windows, and known leaks. It should also be noted not to store boxes nearby food or water in order to minimize the risk of insect and rodent damage.




When storing photography, it is important to not overstuff boxes and ensure that the box is large enough to either lay images flat or stand upright without the need to fold or bend. Boxes should be similar in size to the item being stored to reduce shifting in storage. If there are items of different sizes within the same box, a spacer board can be used to fill unused space. Boxes should be made of board or folder stock that is lignin, acid-free, and/or buffered.


If you are storing large, flexible photography, consider rolling into a tube. An archival quality paper buffered with low-lignin content. The tube should be at least two inches longer than the largest item being rolled, and all sheets that will be rolled should be rolled at the same time.


If documents are brittle, torn, or heavily used, place documents in polyester sleeves. These sleeves reduce the risk of tears and prevent additional damage while handling. Sleeves should be larger than the original because any part of the document that extends outside of the sleeve is prone to additional damage.




If you do not want to store your images in boxes / tubes, you can store them functionally in a spiral or ring binder, or with post, clamp, or traditional sewn bindings. It is essential to avoid overstuffing the albums, adding too many items to the pages, and/or including too many pages to the album. If done, these will cause damage to the pages of the album and the items attached.


Pages, corners, envelopes, and other materials within the album should be acid-free with sleeves made from stable plastics such as polyester, propylene, or polyethylene. If using adhesives to attach photos to the album, avoid poor quality glue, rubber cement, synthetic (white) glue, hot glue gun adhesives, and/or any other unknown glues and pressure sensitive tape(s). Non-stainless steel staples and paperclips, as well as rubber bands, should also be avoided as these will corrode photographs and documents.


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